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June 28, 2023 | By M Ledferd

Introduction from the IAES Blog Team:

The staff at IAES brings to you the inspirational thoughts and feelings of a mighty AE Warrior shortly after his AE journey began. M Ledferd has put into words with heartfelt elegance the way we have all felt at one point or another on our journey. His gift with prose has brought to life our deepest feelings and resonated with our hearts and minds. We hope you enjoy this as much as we have! Thank you M!

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For those AE survivors, let gratitude carry us. For the caretakers, bless you. For those still struggling, please keep fighting the good fight. We are all here for you.

When I first awoke in the hospital, I felt like a 90-year-old man. A weak, tired old man with no autonomy. A man that could barely move or speak. A man at the end of his life.

Coming in and out of consciousness, I had a lot to think about. (Because I had nothing else to do.)

I realized that people generally saw their lives in stages: a beginning, middle and end. With a middle age that seemed to go on forever. That’s because we have no idea when the end is near. It’s hard to gauge and probably doesn’t even exist in most people’s minds. We simply can’t fathom it. It’s so unknown and far away. But as sure as the sky is blue it eventually reaches us all.

We’re all so different yet all the same. We go from rambunctious, fearless little kids with endless curiosities, to busy, hard-working adults, generating income so that hopefully one day we can retire, where the hours stretch on for days (just like it did when we were little kids).

In retirement, we are sold that we can do anything we want. From reading books to painting, to just chilling on the beach, or seeing the world by cruise ship, or just slow swinging on a porch with an old cat in our lap. I dunno, it’s different for everyone. What I do know is that I had obviously miscalculated a long middle for a short end. Crazy how that happens.

Laying there, motionless, with the chirps and beeps of hospital equipment, the days and nights blurred together. I didn’t know what day it was. But it didn’t matter as time had no relevance. I realized I has spent so much of my life working hard and saving up for a future that would never come. I felt stupid. Decades of grinding, all for what.

I tried to stay positive. To look on the bright side of things. To reflect. I had my fair share of adventures and vacations. My fair share of accomplishments, of friendships. I once took a 3-month solo motorcycle trip across the USA (remember that?). Damn, that was cool.

I got to see the world and was even beginning a new family with my wonderful spouse. I regretted not being able to raise my daughter until she was at least 20. Let me live another 20 years, I said, so I can instill in her self-reliance, self-discipline, curiosity, and grit. To let her know that anything is possible. But I knew that all would eventually be ok. My wife is a warrior with a great big supportive family. And I mean, there’s nothing I can do about it now.

I had a lot of feelings but above all I was calm and grateful. I was grateful I got to experience most of what life had to offer. The exciting parts. The sad parts. The whole gamut of human experience from birth to baby—which is more than anyone is guaranteed. Being in that dark, desolate place in my mind. That place where I had no external voice, I still had gratitude. But it was a resigned gratitude. One with plenty of I-couldas, I-wouldas, and I shouldas.

Coming back into consciousness, hearing the same high-pitched, rhythmic beeping from the heart-monitoring machine, I knew I had been there for a very long time. I felt like I wasn’t getting any better. Every day was just like the last. Groundhog Day.  I felt like, maybe, I would be in the hospital forever in that state. Even if I hadn’t died I felt like a ghost. To be seen but not to see. To be touched but not to touch. A fly on the wall of a busy hospital with ears instead of eyes. A vegetable frozen in time, with tubes and wires coming out of everywhere.

Then just like that, like some kind of reverse “Benjamin Button” disease, I was blasted back into reality, back to my 40-year-old body. I had aches and pains all over, shed a lot of tears, but, damn, it felt good to sit up on my own, to just breathe again. It had been 23 days, with 16 of them in the ICU. I would spend the next 11 days relearning everything. How to walk. How old my daughter was. How to use my phone. But I was back.

Today (April 12, 2023) marks the 100th day of leaving the hospital. Though I’ve been back probably half a dozen times since, they have all been for check-ups, bone density scans, MRI’s, physical therapy, and all ending with my favorite part—going home.

I am not sure what the point of this post is. I guess it’s for you to envision yourself where I was. A dead man with no future, with the woulda, coulda, shouldas. To put yourself there and see if you would change anything when you were granted your wish. To realize that most everything that stresses you out right now probably doesn’t even matter.

You’re alive, you’re breathing, and growing older is a privilege. Don’t waste it with your head down.

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